Useful books

Now here is a good idea for a website. Interview a series of people who really know their subject, and ask them about their 5 favourite books on a subject.

Except couldn’t really find anything arty or crafty on the menus. But I knew that couldn’t be right, because I found it via an Andrew Graham-Dixon tweet. So I did a bit of digging and found some interesting lists.

But be warned, there are some expensive books on there. I had a look at one about Elizabethian embroidery which turned out to cost £250.

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Maps at the Festival of Quilts 2019

I think this has to be my favourite quilt tjhat I’ve seen for a long time.

Yes, it really is a map of the world made out of log cabin patchwork.

And the map of the London Underground, with all that intricate quilting has to be a close second.

They were both on display at the Festival of Quilts 2019 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.

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Bright quilts at the Festival of Quilts 2019

Well, after some dithering about whether it was really worth the long drive, last week I went to the Festival of Quilts 2019 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.

It has taken me nearly a week to sort out the pictures, but now I have got them organised, I have decided to do a series of posts with groups of the pictures, so they are easier to manage.

This first post covers quilts with bright colours, split into a few collages. As you might expect, the pictures are of variable standard, as I had to dodge round the other visitors and get the best shot I could.

The first group shows the different effects you can achieve with a similar palette on a dark background:

A couple that I would have included in the dark collage need to be kept separate, so you can see the details:

Next, here is a collection of similar colours on a pale background:

And finally for today, some all over patterns:









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Tapestry maps

I love this picture. I like the subtle vegetable colours, and the little towns and villages.

I also love that it is a tapestry.

Yes, someone has woven it.

And this map of Oxfordshire isn’t the only one, either. Read more about it here.

I particularly like the part where they say “the library managed to acquire the biggest surviving chunk of Gloucestershire…”

Chunk. That is obviously a technical term.

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Fringeless weaving

In the last year or so, I’ve got into tapestry weaving. I’ve always been put off weaving by the space and money taken up by the loom.

But if you are doing something small, you can get away with a basic frame.

Most of these involve wrapping the warp thread round the top and bottom of the frame to keep it in place. This means that either the weaving has a fringe at both ends, or there is a lot of darning in to do.

Or so I thought, but then I found an online class for fringeless weaving. You wind your weft round a jig, then attach it to the loom using an auxiliary weft.

This is my jig. I reckon I can use it for three sizes. Small, medium, and large. I’ve joined the pipes together using plumbing fittings, and then cut through the pipe to allow the jig to be removed once the warp is on the loom. The parts of the jig are held in place by dowelling inside the pipes, which stop them from moving from side to side. The tension of the warp holds it together in the other direction. The warp is help in place by an auxiliary warp, which can be reused in the next tapestry.

Once you have the auxiliary weft in place, you need to adjust the tension before you start weaving. My usual loom doesn’t have this facility, but I found a nice simple one online. There is a slight delay in implementing this plan, because as you can see, it came ready warped.

So now I’m trying another experiment on that warp. Waste not want not. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode. But don’t hold your breath…

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Granny squares, but not as my Nan knew them

I learned to crochet when I was very little. My Nan started me off, as for some reason Mum couldn’t crochet. Nan died when I was 6, so after that, I learned from books.

I haven’t done any crochet for ages, but at the Knitting and Stitching show at Harrogate in November, I was tempted to buy a kit for a throw from Janie Crow.

It was partly the colours, but also the interpretation of the pattern. I made a traditional granny square blanket when I was a kid, but this is more sophisticated. It involves complications like changing the size of the hook, and doubles and half trebles as well as trebles.

Found I was making slow progress. There is a different colour every round, slight changes in the pattern, and the occasional change of hook. Reading the pattern carefully all the time was the problem. So I started doing it in stages, doing each round of the 16 octagons, 9 squares, 12 half triangles, and 4 quarter triangles, to avoid messing about.

I’ve been taking pictures as I went along, so here is a collage of the work as it progressed, and finished in situ. I think it is interesting how the volume of yarn in the basket.

Oh, and because I wasn’t bothered about the finished size, I didn’t check the tension. The octagons are supposed to be 29cm across. Mine are more like 23cm. So I’ve added an extra row down one side.

And I got bored with doing rows of double crochet round the edge, so I finished it with some shells.

Now, rather than adding the leftovers to the stash, I’m going to see if I can make something useful from them. I do like those colours!

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A natural dye rainbow

I have been doing a lot of experiments natural dyeing , and I decided to take a course, to get the knowledge in place systematically. So I’m doing a three module course with Justine Aldersey-Williams this year.

In module 1, on colour, we have been learning to make a rainbow out of three plant colours. Justine selected three of the oldest dyestuffs, as they stand the test of time: indigo for blue, weld for yellow, and madder for red.

My weld and indigo both worked well. As I was focussing on small samples, which takes a lot of faffing, I didn’t want to have a lot of due left to use up at the end of the session. I think I have been a bit stingy with the madder. The red is a bit pale.

I did three primary colours and overdyed with the same set of dye baths to get three secondary colours. Then I used modifiers to get a bigger range. I used white vinegar, washing soda, and an iron solution. One red changed so much that I thought it was orange. The weld seems to have dominated the reaction, as all the colours with any weld (yellow, orange and green) look practically the same.

The whole process took quite a lot of time. Normally, I would not have needed to record everything, and keep all the samples in the correct order. As a result, I left everything top dry in a foil tray. And managed to dry creases in. I knew perfectly well that was going to happen, but by the time I got that far I was too tired to think straight.

For the course, I had to show dyed samples in my dye journal, and also prepare a sample card. I’ve also done a small wall hanging to use a nail in the wall of the sewing room (left over from its previous use in my ex’s office). I have another set of samples, which I plan to turn into bunting, but I haven’t got that far yet…

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A flower foot for my sewing machine

Remember Spirograph? You put the point of a coloured pen into a hole in a plastic wheel, then rolled that wheel round the inside of a plastic ring to make a pattern. The two bits of plastic were held together by cogs.

Well, this is a similar principle. I disengage the feed dog, which moves the fabric in a straight line through the machine, fit this foot, and then off I go.

The notches round the foot rotates it as the stitching proceeds, so the stitching forms a circle. All sorts of embroidery stitches on the machine can be used to get different effects.

The size of the circle can be varied by adjusting the position of the tongue that goes across the middle of the foot. If you forget to tighten the screw, the vibrations of the machine move it gradually to the other end of the scale, making a spiral effect. Accidents are sometimes useful.

There is lots of fun to be had with this toy, although I will have to remember to stablise thinner fabrics. This piece of calico was 9 1/2 inches wide before I started to stitch, but the sides both shrank in by about 1/4 inch after I had stitched it.

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A new way of getting heat

I’ve decided to buy a toaster oven to use in the dye house (OK, it is a garage really). I like to work out there so that chemical things stay out of the kitchen, but also to keep the house smell free. I have been using slow cookers, but they don’t allow control of the temperature, only the time. If you want to use things like madder, control is key.

I also plan to use it for baking polymer clay, and heat setting silk paint. I’m happier doing this sort of thing in the kitchen, but sometimes there is an odd smell.

First problem¬†I didn’t manage to plug it into the extension lead properly. Next problem – it has an inbuilt timer, which I assumed was an optional extra. Wrong. If the timer isn’t on, it doesn’t get hot.

At first I was fine, because the instructions said to set the timer for 5 minutes to get the hobs to the correct heat. As I need to heat gradually, and make sure nothing got above 60 degrees C, I was happy that things weren’t getting towards boiling point. But then I realised nothing was happening at all.

Then I re-read the instructions and realised my mistake.

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Japanese technique sampling

Here are some pictures of Hannah Lamb’s experiments based on katagami, Japanese dyeing stencils. The pictures were taken at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

Some lovely results, nicely displayed. And I like the copper wire bulldog clips!

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